Hawkesbury plan up for input
New South Wales has launched its first 10-year plan for a key marine environment, but questions have already been raised about whether it goes far enough.
The Marine Estate Management Authority has put out a draft document for public comment, which outlines eight initiatives to help the nearby marine environment.
Plans include improving water quality and reducing litter, as authorities have identified water pollution as their primary threat.
It also outlines initiatives for sustainable fishing and aquaculture, aimed at protecting the state’s recreational fishing revenue of $3.4 billion and the 14,000 full-time jobs it creates across coastal NSW.
But on the other side of the coin, fishing was identified as a threat to “particular environmental assets”.
The authorities propose new harvest and risk management strategies for fisheries with moderate and high-risk levels.
NSW Department of Primary Industries program leader for marine strategy Nicola Johnstone said it would be a fine balance to strike.
“It's looking to promote economic growth as well as balancing conservation,” Ms Johnstone said.
The document covers the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion - a massive stretch of coastline from Newcastle to Wollongong - but conservationists want the higher level of protection that would come from it being made into a marine park.
The NSW coastline already features eight marine parks, with the Hawkesbury Shelf being one of the only areas left that are not covered by one.
“The research has shown that a marine park deals with the most number of threats to the marine environment, so if the government is serious about dealing with the threats that our precious environment faces, they would absolutely bring in a marine park for the region,” Daisy Barham from the Nature Conservation Council has told the ABC.
“We're really encouraging the government to move ahead with the marine parks for the region, it's well overdue.
“We're the only place in the state that doesn't have one, and it's something that the community want, so what's not to love?”
Ms Johnstone said she hopes the consultation process will give a better idea of the planned protections.
“There's still quite a process to go through to identify what are the best spatial management mechanisms in the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, and we need to talk to the community about that,” she said.
“That will be dealt with separately, and we really need to obviously talk to the community in detail about any options, but there's nothing developed at this stage.”
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Upper House MP Robert Brown said he would fight plans for protection.
He said the aquatic reserve was already large enough, particularly around Sydney Harbour.
“So any attempt to introduce marine parks or any more exclusion zones other than what there are now, I think would be very, very unpopular and certainly I'd do everything in my power to make sure it didn't happen,” Mr Brown said.
Submissions on the new strategy are open until December 8.